People with access to the internet are less willing to rely on their own knowledge, a new study finds.
It may be because people are more afraid to be wrong when the answer is so close to hand…
…or possibly the opportunity to look it up online is rewarding.
Professor Evan F. Risko, who led the research, said:
“With the ubiquity of the Internet, we are almost constantly connected to large amounts of information.
And when that data is within reach, people seem less likely to rely on their own knowledge.”
For the study, 100 people answered general knowledge questions, such as naming the capital of France.
Half the participants had access to the internet, while the other half did not.
Those who had access were allowed to look up the answer if they didn’t know themselves.
The results showed that people with internet access were more likely to say they didn’t know the answer.
Professor Risko said:
“Our results suggest that access to the Internet affects the decisions we make about what we know and don’t know.
We hope this research contributes to our growing understanding of how easy access to massive amounts of information can influence our thinking and behaviour.”
People who had access to the internet sometimes reported feeling they knew less than those without access.
Part of the reason we defer to the internet may be how it changes our perception of our own knowledge.
A previous study found that having access to the internet gives us the illusion of knowledge, even when searching is useless.
People in that study easily confused their own knowledge with things they had actually looked up on the internet.
It seems just the idea of having internet access is enough to turn us from know-nothings to know-alls.
Being disconnected, though, seems to make us more unsure of what we thought we knew.
The study was published in the journal Consciousness and Cognition (Ferguson et al., 2015).
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
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